Meatless Monday Goes Local

August 22nd, 2011

Late summer through early fall marks peak season for many of our favorite fruits and vegetables. This is the perfect time then to add more local produce to your Meatless Monday menu! Locally sourced food is easier to get than you might assume and comes with a whole host of health and environmental benefits.

Produce grown closer to home is seasonal, spends less time in transport and is usually left to ripen on the vine. All these factors result in less nutrient loss between the farm and your fork. Fresh, seasonal foods also tend to be tastier, adding some extra flavor to your (already delicious) Meatless Monday entrees! Frequently stocking up on local produce can also reduce your intake of processed foods, which means you’ll be consuming less sodium, calories and additives.

The benefits of local produce go beyond personal health. Food activist and Meatless Monday supporter Michael Pollan notes that going local reduces food transportation’s impact on the environment and helps preserve agricultural landscapes and farming traditions:

Many Meatless Monday restaurants, schools and organizations are using local, sustainable food to get the most from their Monday dishes! Eateries like Swoon Kitchenbar (Hudson, N.Y.), Dovetail (N.Y.C.), Local Table (Tulsa, OK), Cookshop (N.Y.C.) and Sustain (Miami) change their Meatless Monday menus on a monthly (or even weekly) basis, taking advantage of the season’s best. A local Meatless Monday menu made perfect sense to Greg Koch, CEO and Co-founder of Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido, CA. Stone Brewing is the largest restaurant purchaser of local, small-farm organic produce in San Diego County. Meatless Monday then is an extension of the restaurant’s philosophy on delicious, environmentally sustainable food. “We started off with very strong stances and we’ve been able to maintain them,” notes Koch, “when I heard about Meatless Monday I thought that this was a simple way to promote a very simple ideology. It’s good for us, good for the environment, just good for everything!”

While restaurants are using locally sourced Meatless Mondays to showcase environmentally conscious cuisine, hospitals and schools also hope to educate their clientele about healthier options. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital uses Meatless Monday to talk to patients about going local. “Food at Gottlieb is fresh, seasonal, nutritious as well as tasty,” said Susan Ofria, registered dietitian and manager, “Meatless Monday promotes healthier eating by emphasizing fruits, vegetables and alternative sources of protein that are free from saturated fat.” At Baltimore City Public Schools, students get their hands dirty at Great Kids Farm, a 33-acre teaching facility where produce is sourced for their Meatless Monday lunches. Local foods also take center stage on many campuses, including UC Santa Cruz and the University of Florida.

Given the benefits of going local, you may be wondering how you can get more hometown produce into your Meatless Monday meals. Check out the Eat Well Guide for all the resources you need, including a list of seasonal items by state and a directory of farmer’s markets in your area. Then visit each week for the seasonal recipes you need to make your local produce shine!